A little hand
Came darting out from beneath its prow
And snatched at my ankle.
I stumbled sideways,
Arms flailing, into the bulk
Of something spiky, twisted my ankle
The child was sitting crouched
In cotton pyjamas, her hair long,
Dark and un-cared for, her eyes brilliant
From lack of sleep.
"Hello," she whispered,
"Come under here and talk." She drew
Her knees up to her chin and patted
The earth beside her. "It's nice to talk
To somebody real."
"I'm real enough
But what about you?"
"O, I'm a witch‑
A good witch though‑" she reassured me.
"I come most nights. It feels like home.
You never know quite what's going to happen;
That's half the fun. This night for instance
I saw a man with a pointed stick
Chasing this really funny monster..."
I cut her short. "I know," I said,
"I saw him too. Perhaps you can tell me
How I get out of this wretched place."
She frowned. "By getting off the path‑"
She seemed perplexed. "Why, everyone knows
The paths in the forest go round in circles..."
She paused and raised an accusing eyebrow;
"I do suppose you know where you are?"
"Le Foret des Dames?"
She sniffed and shrugged,
"I've never heard it called that before.
Broceliande or a Wood near Athens or‑
I don't know‑ there's hundreds of names."
She brightened up. "And yours I suppose
Is as good as any. O Look...."
A tall black woman with beads in her hair
Slid through a moonbeam.
"One of your dreams,
I think," she said, "but smartened up
A bit by me."